Feeding on monarda at Caan Floral

Have you noticed? Sphinx moths are out in force this year.  At Caan Floral we are seeing five to six White Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) feeding from our perennial buffet every day.  At first glance they can be mistaken for hummingbirds since both hover over their flower feeding stations. Some people think they are seeing a baby hummingbird. (By the time they are able to fly hummingbirds are full sized.)

Three quick ways to spot the difference:
1.  Sphinx moth as a group show muted colors in shades of rust, white, tan, orange and grey. None have shiny adornment.  Most hummingbirds are show-offs with shimmery feathers. (Some males such as the Rufous hummingbird do not have glossy feathers).

2. The Sphinx moth is smaller than most hummingbirds.  Sphinx moth have a 2-3 inch wing span. While hummingbirds in our area have 3-4 inch wing span.

3. Sphinx moth do not have a beak.  They have a long feeding tube (proboscis) that rolls up like a coiled spring.  Hummingbirds, well you know, long pointy thing on the front of their face.

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White Lined Sphinx Moth at Rest

The White Lined Sphinx moth is easily identified when when resting.  The closed wing forms a perfect V with tan lines running from head to tip of wing accentuating the V even further.  There are fine tan lines running at angles from the main line all over a  dark brown.  When in flight the under-wing shows a rust orange patch diagonal to the body.  In flight the sphinx moth is erratic, sometime even flying right at a person before veering quickly to the side.

Sphinx moth can be seen May through October in our area.   The larval stage is a yellow, black or lime green horned  non-fuzzy caterpillar.  When done feeding they burrow into the ground and form a chrysalis.  After 2-3 weeks they emerge in a new flight.  When populations are high in an area some will migrate out of the area to find new food sources.

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Larva Feeding

As larvae the sphinx moth eat  willow weed (Epilobium), four o’clock (Mirabilis), evening primrose (Onethera), grape (Vitis), apple (Malus), tomato (Lycopersicon) purslane (Portulaca) and Fushia.  As adults they find nectar from columbine, larkspur, lilac, clover, honeysuckle, jimson weed, thistle, moonvine and others.  (They can be frustrating if they are eating plants that you want to keep such as tomato.)

Sphinx moth are are very widely distributed genus.  They are found from central America north to southern Canada and the West Indies. They are also found Through all Eurasia and Africa.  They are so well distributed that they generally don’t need extra protection.  That said, please don’t kill them if you don’t have to.

Thanks to the following websites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyles_lineata, http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Hyles-lineata, www.rubythroat.org/rthuexternalmain.html